I’m here again, in the situation of having signed up for an upcoming volunteer project, only to get cold feet in the hours before. Why? Because I’m irrationally scared of a million things will go wrong if I actually go. Sometimes I curse how technology has made communicating so much simpler. With a few taps on my phone, I can email someone to apologize for the short notice but that I am canceling due to a “personal emergency”. I can’t count how many times I’ve sent that email in the last month for a lot of volunteer projects I’ve signed up for and then my nerves over being around people and talking to them kick in before I drive myself nuts with overthinking about all the possible (and impossible) situations that could happen if I go. Generally, I convince myself that I will 100%, without a doubt make a fool out of myself in front of people.
I am writing this post now because I’m fighting against these irrational thoughts and I don’t know if I can hold the dam back to keep it from flooding. I am so tempted to tap, tap, tap out another sorry excuse of an email message stating that I’ve canceled and then hit send in order to release myself from this state of heightened anxiety. It’d be so easy to give in and let my plans for tomorrow slip away like this, but I know if I cancel, I’ll feel terrible in the aftermath about my choice and sit at home wondering what would’ve happened had I gone instead of being such a scaredy cat.
When I really think about why I sign up for these projects in the first place, it’s not to force myself to interact with people because I feel I must do it. It’s that I actually have a genuine like for helping people and a part of me longs to build close connections, even though talking to people terrifies me. It’s not like I expect to make friends through these projects, but I’d be happy even establishing a personal acquaintance with a couple of people, like getting to work with them every now and then and getting along as we work together to finish something on the job. I feel most pathetic to say I don’t have any acquaintances I can count on for, like let’s say if I had to list personal or professional references on a job application. Either I don’t have anyone to list or I’m too embarrassed to send a cordial email to people asking if I can list them simply because I’ve been out of contact with them for so long.
I feel guilty thinking about canceling because of my social anxiety fears. I avoid a situation without giving other people a chance or allowing myself a chance to experience things and see how it goes.
If you’ve ever been in a similar struggle like I am now, what advice do you have for me? How do I stay on the path through this dark tunnel and keep going towards the light, when I’m experiencing anxiety and my mind tricks me into believing the light is not where I should go, and that actually I should just turn back and give up?